Have you ever wondered to yourself how the Redskins coaching staff haven’t been able to see in a practice, the same things that we fans see in a game?
I have a theory… lack of practice speed and intensity.
I was chatting with my good friend Grant Paulsen during the season about several of the Redskins woes – not the least of which is how often we saw things about players, that the coaching staff seemed oblivious to. Case in point – and I’m not picking on the guy – Stephon Heyer.
GP and I wondered how on earth a guy as astute about line play as Joe Bugel couldn’t see that Heyer wasn’t cutting it. I mean, Buges has seen hundreds of offensive linemen over the years – how is it even possible that he couldn’t see that Heyer was so easily beat one-on-one? There are obviously several possibilities here – not the least of which is that Buges did, but had no means to rectify the situation. It’s not like the Redskins had a ton of good depth behind Heyer to put in, so it’s entirely possible that it wasn’t a case of not noticing, so much as not being able to fix it with the tools at hand.
But here’s another possibility – the Redskins practice soft.
That sounds simplistic, but bear with me.
An NFL game is an incredibly fast-paced adventure; so fast, that it’s hard to emulate on a practice field. It is said that even when teams practice at so-called full speed, it isn’t close to the pace at which an actual game is played. You often hear that the reason it takes college kids a little while to settle into the NFL, is because they have to learn to adjust to the amazing speed that a real NFL game is played.
So take that thought a step further and think about a team not even practicing at full speed; say that team practices at say 75% speed. In this scenario, would you notice that a left tackle wasn’t able to back pedal quick enough to fend off a Pro Bowl calibre Defensive End? Would you notice that a tackle’s base wasn’t solid enough when only working at 3/4 of the game pace?
I’m not trying to pick on Heyer at all, so let’s look at a couple of other positions…
Would you notice that a safety is so easily beat on a double move if the receiver wasn’t giving it his everything?
Would you notice that a running back is not hitting a small hole, when there IS a hole at practice because the defense is taking it easy?
Would you notice that a punt returner can’t see the field because at practice, he always has space?
Would you notice that a defensive tackle is easily winded, when he has the stamina to compete fully at a 3/4 speed practice?
Take the premise a step further and ask yourself what the effect could have on injuries. Isn’t it more likely that injuries will occur, when the only time that a player sees that full speed is at game time?
This isn’t a slight on Jim Zorn either, because the Joe Gibbs II teams had very similar problems. I remember going to training camp and thinking, ‘Wow, what a crappy vanilla practice. These guys aren’t going full tilt at all.’ Sure there are other factors at play too in a training camp situation… i was attending open practices… which are known to be a lot less intense than the closed practices are. But are they intense enough? Is this an on-going problem in D.C.? Is the ‘spoiled’ attitude that making huge money brings, affecting the way the Washington Redskins play on the practice field? And then that is affecting their ability to compete at full speed on game day?
It’s just a theory… but often where there’s smoke – there’s fire.
Hopefully with Mike Shanahan taking over – the practice intensity at Redskin Park is going to pick up. It might be the source of a lot of the Redskins game day problems.